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Ear Acupuncture for Weight Loss?

Tim Boyer's picture
Weight loss and acupuncture

Lose weight without dieting or exercise? That’s what some advocates of ear acupuncture claim can happen with this centuries old technique.


In a recent news report from KENS 5 News in San Antonio, patients are seeking non-traditional weight loss measures through the traditional Asian medical practice of acupuncture. More precisely, ear acupuncture that involves multiple sessions of having a skilled practitioner apply tiny needles or an herbal seed to specific pressure points on the lateral regions of the outer ear. In some cases, dieters resort to using surgical staples or body jewelry on pressure points in the ear as a form of acupuncture therapy for weight loss.

This acupuncture method is believed to work by targeting pressure points on the outer ear that are physiologically linked to bodily systems such as the digestive and endocrine systems. Typically, only one pressure point is thought to control hunger and appetite and therefore the only one necessary for aiding weight loss. However, for many whose weight and overall health is seriously affected due to an unhealthy BMI, four additional points are also used on the ear to promote improved metabolic function.

According to a recent KENS5 News report, Western and Eastern medical practitioners do not agree on the effectiveness of ear acupuncture for weight loss:

So, are there any studies supporting or refuting the effectiveness of ear acupuncture for weight loss? Yes, but very few. In both cases, each side argues that the others’ studies consist of too few data points to demonstrate statistical significance.

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As an example, one study published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, Korean researchers performed a randomized clinical trial on ear acupuncture for weight loss where 91 study participants were divided into 3 groups. In Treatment Group I the participants received acupuncture in all five ear acupuncture points. In Treatment Group II, the participants received acupuncture only in the one pressure point associated with controlling hunger and appetite. Group III was the control sham group where the 5 pressure points were momentarily pricked and then the needles immediately removed.

At the conclusion of the 8-week long clinical trial, only 58 out of the original 91 provided useable data that the researchers reported showed a statistically significant difference in weight loss between Treatment Groups I and II against the control group. Treatment groups I and II showed a 6.1% and 5.7% reduction in BMI, respectively, leading the researchers to conclude that their data suggests that the five ear acupuncture points and the single hunger/appetite acupuncture point alone treatments are both effective for treating overweight people.

However, at this time there is no scientific consensus of an accepted study proving or disproving their results and whether or not ear acupuncture really does work for weight loss. As witnessed with many other weight loss programs, individual successes and failures do occur.


KENS 5 News San Antonio “Clinic targeting weight loss in patients through ear acupuncture

Randomized clinical trial of five ear acupuncture points for the treatment of overweight peopleAcupuncture in Medicine 2014; 32:132-138; Sujung Yeo et al.